Today is Google’s birthday! Or, at least, it is one of the key dates that lead to the birth of the Google company, as exactly on September 4, 1998 the two dads of the search engine, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, signed the documents that formalized the debut of the incorporation called indeed Google (while September 15, 1997 is the day of the online launch of Google Search and September 27 the day chosen for the real birthday, in memory of the record of indexed pages marked in 1998).

To celebrate this anniversary, we thought to tell a little of the “hidden side” of the search engine: no SEO for today, but a bit of fun with all the curiosities, surprises and easter eegs scattered among the queries!

What Google means

Let us start with the origins of the search engine name, which according to the most accredited version is linked to an error – a real case of misspelling. For their search engine, Page and Brin wanted a hyperbolic name, which immediately expressed its ability to organize the immense amount of information available on the Web.

The choice fell on the mathematical term googol, coined in 1938 to define the number 1 followed by 100 zeros, which seemed perfect to metaphorically represent the vastness of the Web. At the time of registering the company, however, they were wrong to write the word and googol became Google, a name that evidently brought good luck!

There are other versions of this story, which resize the error and link the final choice of the term to various wordplays in English. In particular, to the verb to goggle and to the noun goggles, or even to the character of an American comic, called Barney Google, to whom was dedicated the famous song “Barney Google with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes” (1923) and a commemorative stamp (included among the 20 Comic Strip Classics of the United States).

Google’s doodles

A well-known, appreciated and awaited feature of the search engine is that of doodles, or the funny and surprising variants (sometimes animated or interactive) of the classic Google logo in the homepage that are published to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of artists, famous innovators and scientists, both internationally and locally (ie. only in the Google version of that country).

Although it may seem a rather recent introduction, the invention and use of doodles also date back to the dawn of the search engine. On August 30, 1998, the founders Larry and Sergey already “fiddled with the company logo to communicate their participation at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert”.

The first Google’s doodle appears indeed on that date and simply consists in the design of a stylized little man peeking out of the brand’s second O, as a symbolic and comical signal to users that the founders would have been “out of office” on that day.

Two years later, in 2000, Page and Brin asked for a special logo to celebrate the anniversary of the capture of the Bastille: the task was entrusted to the then intern Dennis Hwang (who later became responsible for all the Google’s webmasters, still maintaining a role in the design of doodles), and the result was so appreciated that doodles became an increasingly regular presence on the home page of Google (with a specific team of engineers and illustrators, called doodlers, working on this front).

According to the official page of this initiative, so far Google has created over 4000 doodles for its homepages all around the world, all intended to “commemorate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google’s personality and its love for innovation” and, at the same time, liven up Google’s homepage and make users all over the world smile.

The surprises inside Google

Speaking of smiling users, there are many hidden systems with which Google winks at people who use the search engine: among the billions of possible queries, in fact, there are some “keywords” that can activate secret messages, intentional inside jokes or special features, which we can generally define easter eggs.

There are about seventy special features that are currently active, while many others are no longer online; thanks to the work of cognitiveseo, we tried to draw up an exhaustive list of all easter eggs in Google Search, which can give us a few moments of distraction between one search and the other.

  1. Cha Cha Slide – the most recent surprise you can discover by typing the query [cha cha slide] and clicking on the animated microphone that appears in the right corner of the featured video. The notes of Mr C’s homonymous song The Slide Man (published exactly 20 years ago) will start and, continuing to click on the following icons, our screen will dance to the rhythm (and actions) of the song.
  2. Games in Google Arts. In the American version of the search engine, for mobile users, some queries activate special games and quizzes related to the sought-after personality. As told on seroundtable, typing Fernando Botero or Ansel Adams it will be possible to join these interactive games on art and culture, by selecting the right answer among the offered ones (and there is a score, too!).
  3. Google in 1998. Valid for the US version,  this command takes us back in time and makes us rediscover a classic (and now very old) version of the search engine.
  4. Is Google down. Pay attention to what you ask to the search engine: the query (still in the US) “is Google down” will trigger a harsh and witty answer, a big NO in capital letters (as long as, of course, Google is not actually down!).
  5. Google Logo History. How has the Google logo changed over the years? Launching the search for Google Logo History, a scrolling snippet appears in which we can retrace the most important moments and the official transformations of the iconic brand of Big G. 
  6. Google Birthday Surprise Spinner. Launched on the occasion of the search engine’s 19th birthday, this easter egg allows you to take a ride to the “surprise wheel” and play at the result that appears. There are 19 different outcomes available, including games, animated doodles and other goodies.
  7. Marquee Tag. Typing marquee tag in the search bar Google gives a practical demonstration of what this HTML tag is, which serves to set the sliding effect to texts and elements. 
  8. Blink Tag. In the same way, Google reminds everyone what the Blink tag is, flashing some parts of the text of the results in SERP (the ones where the words blink and tag appear).
  9. Kerning. In typography, kerning is a technique of word spacing: Google visually shows its meaning, increasing the distance between the characters that form the term kerning in all instances of the SERP.
  10. Font. Speaking of typography, on this page you will be able to discover lots of fonts and visually test their graphic effect, comparing multiple types to find the one suitable for our needs.
  11. Color Picker. Typing color picker a pantone appears allowing us to choose all possible colors in different codes (HEX, RGB, CMYK, HSV, HSL).
  12. Do a Barrel Roll. By typing this query, the search engine will literally run the command and turn the page 360 degrees.
  13. Askew. By looking for this term (meaning lopsided, crooked) the page of the results will incline, indeed, to the side.
  14. Google Gravity. In this case, we have to type the query in the homepage of the search engine and click on the “I feel lucky” button: suddenly the page will fall due to gravity (The most careful ones among us will notice that it is an old version of the Google home, as you can see from the logo).
  15. Error 418 and the teapot. Following two different April fools (1998 and 2014), Google published a page related to the 418 status code error of the Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol (HTCPCP), the network protocol for the control, monitoring and diagnostics of coffee makers and teapots. At this address you may experience the error and pour the tea by clicking on the teapot (or tilting your smartphone, in mobile navigation).
  16. Friends. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Friends, Google added some special features to the searches of the names of the protagonists of the famous sitcom. Typing Chandler Bing, Phoebe Buffay, Monica Geller, Ross Geller, Rachel Green and Joey Tribbiani will appear 6 different icons in the knowledge panel, peculiar to each character, which activate a special animation.
  17. Festivus. This easter egg is instead inspired by Seinfeld, and shows to the left of the results the aluminum rod stripped of decorations that is the symbol of Festivus, the anti-Christmas holiday of the show.
  18. The funniest joke in the world. Monty Python fans will smile to find that there is an inside joke dedicated to their famous sketch: inserting in the search bar the sentence “Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput! to English”, Google Translate will respond with [FATAL ERROR], exactly the effect caused by the world’s funniest joke.
  19. Sonic the Hedgehog Game. Performing this search, in the knowledge panel appears an icon of the famous character of video games SEGA that, clicked, is activated and performs the classic moves accompanied by the sounds of the game.
  20. Wizard of Oz. Launching this search, in the corner of the knowledge panel appears a clickable image of Dorothy’s iconic shiny red shoes that will transport us in a black and white version of Google (1939 style, year of release of the film with Judy Garland). From here, clicking on the tornado will take us back to Kansas, or rather to the current version of Google.
  21. Wubba Lubba Dub Dub. Valid for Google US, this is the typical phrase of the show “Rick and Morty”, which will bring the search engine to ask us if maybe we were looking for “i am in great pain please help me” (because, as revealed in an episode, the phrase means precisely “I’m suffering a lot, please help me”).
  22. Google Bork. From this address, the home page of Google will speak a special language, the “Bork Bork Bork” spoken by the Swedish chef of the Muppet Show.
  23. Google Hacker. From this address, the Google’s homepage will again speak a different language, the language typical of hackers (as seen by the words between the figures).
  24. Google Klingon. For Star Trek fans, there is this version of Google with words written in Klingon.
  25. Google Pig Latin. There is also this variant of Google in Pig Latin, the playful language that transforms words.
  26. Google Elmer Fudd. It is a tribute to Elmer Fudd, the character of the Looney Tunes: in this case, too, the writings of the Google homepage follow the language of the archenemy of Bugs Bunny.
  27. Google Pirate. Ahrrr, pirates! At this link you can get a taste of the pirate language on Google. Aye!
  28. Bletchley Park. In World War II, Bletchley Park was the site of the UK’s main cryptanalysis unit (where Alan Turing worked, among others): typing the name on Google will show how a code decryption system works, as well as the location of Station X.
  29. Bakers dozen. By writing bakers dozen, Google shows the snippet of a calculator that gives as a result 13: according to the Britannica Encyclopedia, in fact, this is the actual “portion” that, in medieval England, customers used to receive from bakers. The reason is to be found in the difficulty of securing the actual weight “in terms of law” of 12 loaves and therefore, for safety (and to avoid heavy penalties), the bakers decided to add an extra piece.
  30. Fun facts. Interested in discovering some curiosities? Just type fun facts on Google and the search engine will present (randomly) some of these bizarre and interesting facts, such as “how long it takes an average person to fall asleep” or “when the nose and ears stop growing”.
  31. Flip a coin. Looking for “heads or tails”, Google shows us an animation with the coin toss, useful maybe for those looking for help in making a choice.
  32. Roll a die. Google takes this command literally and will allow us to roll a die (or rather, more dice) also choosing the number of faces among the 6 available.
  33. Spinner and Fidget Spinner. Back in 2017, even Google was not able to resist the temptation to rotate this particular spinning top: by typing spinner or fidget spinner we can shake the toy (or choose to spin the wheel, selecting the other option).
  34. Play Dreidel. Valid for the Google US version, this command allows you to rotate the Dreidel, or Sevivon, a playful object typical of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.
  35. 3D Egg. A very special surprise: typing a particular function (or more simply clicking here) it is possible to view a three-dimensional egg that rotates.
  36. St.Valentine’s heart. Similarly, a complex function (or a click here) allows you to activate a Valentine’s Day-themed easter egg, with the graph of a blue heart.
  37. Loneliest Number. This easter egg, too, works only on Google US and shows the answer to the question (implied) on the “loneliest number” with a calculator that indicates 1.
  38. Anagram. By writing anagram and define anagram in the search bar, Google will have fun suggesting that “maybe you were looking for nag a ram” or “nerd fame again“, which are just an anagram of the two queries!
  39. Recursion. Recursion indicates a function that is repeated continuously: Google has found a perfect way to explain the meaning, suggesting “maybe you were looking for recursion” that, basically, restarts the initial search and so to infinity. It also works in English with the term recursion.
  40. Spirit level. Sudden need to use a spirit level? Just launch the search “level” with your smartphone and we can use our device to measure the slope.
  41. Loch Ness. This easter egg is activated in Google Maps: looking for Loch Ness, the map will indicate the location of Nessie, the mythical monster of the lake.
  42. Google Mars. So much more than Google Earth: this application allows you to explore the surface of Mars!
  43. Google Moon. We are closer to Earth, in this case: Google Moon actually takes us to the Moon.
  44. Google Sky. Tired of our planet? We can start discovering space with Google Sky.
  45. PRIDE in Google Sheets. This is a social easter egg that activates in Google Sheets (or Sheets, the version of Windows Excel among the Google Drive softwares): by writing the letters P R I D E in a separate column, the worksheet will color with the colors of the rainbow, recalling the flag symbol of the LGBTQ+ movement of queer pride.
  46. Animal sounds. What does the dog sound like? And the dragon of Comodo? Google has a whole gallery of sounds and voices of animals – and no, even here there is no answer to the question “how does the crocodile sound like?” (but you can hear the alligator, tough).
  47. Metronome. This feature is useful for musicians, who can use a valid metronome at any time to measure time with Google.
  48. Timer. Is it time to run or to measure time? Google can help us with a stopwatch or with a countdown timer, depending on your needs: it works from here in the US version.
  49. Breathing exercise. Looking for breathing exercises or deep breathing, Google will allow us to perform a breathing exercise lasting one minute.
  50. What is the hour. Not a real easter egg, but one of Google’s direct answer functions, which for a few years now directly answers questions with a quite useful snippet. Just type “what time is it” and enter the location to retrieve the info.
  51. Money converter. As before, just write the currencies you are interested in to have an automatic and immediate conversion.
  52. Calculator. By writing a mathematical calculation (from simple addition to something more complex) we will activate the calculator, which will give us the correct answer.
  53. Numbers. Any difficulties spelling long and complex numbers in English? Just ask Google US: typing the figures, the equality indicator and the “English” term, the search engine will read the number for us. Here the example with 123456789=english.
  54. Info on personalities. We can ask Google the height or age of many famous people, getting in response a featured snippet that reports the information.
  55. Random number generator. By writing this query, Google responds to the command by randomly generating a number, with the ability to set the range of numbers aong which to perform the automatic selection.
  56. Webdriver Torso. In 2014, this Youtube channel became very popular and popular for its mysterious and strange videos (consisting of 11 seconds of blue and red rectangles) that some even linked to aliens or coded messages. In fact, it was a test channel used by Google technicians to verify the audio and image quality of videos, and writing today on the search engine Webdriver Torso the Google logo turns into one of the videos.

Games in Google Search

Being on the computer for many hours can lead to fatigue and stress: why not take some time off, maybe trying some online games? This is perhaps the spirit with which the engineers of Big G have disseminated several games in the Search system, more or less hidden.

  1. Dinosaur. In the absence of network connection (or connecting to chrome://dino), on the error page of Chrome appears the icon of a cute little T-Rex in 8-bit: clicking on the keyboard a scrolling game starts, in which we must help the dinosaur to avoid the obstacles that stand in the way of its race.
  2. Snake. Snake was a great classic of the generation of mobile phones of the nineties: to relive those moments, just type Snake or connect to this address for a game.
  3. Tris. Everyone knows the Tris (or Tic-Tac-Toe or Terni Lapilli, the name it had in Ancient Rome), the strategic challenge between X and O: for a match against the machine, just look for the name of the game (in all three variants) or connect here.
  4. Solitaire. Looking for Solitaire (or clicking here) you can start a game of solitaire cards Klondike version.
  5. Pac Man. Even the legendary arcade game invented by Tōru Iwatani and produced by Namco in 1980 has its own space on Google: just look for Pac Man or launch this page to find yourself in the shoes of the yellow sphere!
  6. Minesweeper. Who has never played the minefield (then flower field) on Windows? Just type minesweeper on Google to start a game.
  7. Text Adventure. Text adventure enthusiasts will find the opportunity to experience this experience on Google very welcome. Just go to the American version of the search engine and type text adventure (or click here) and then use the command to inspect the page (Ctrl+Shift+I); now let’s go to Console and the system will ask us “Would you like to play a game? (yes/no)”. Typing yes will start our adventure.
  8. Interactive fiction. It works a bit like the previous surprise: by writing interactive fiction and inspecting the Console, a Warning message appears and then the possibility to launch a textual adventure game.
  9. Carmen Sandiego. This is a game contained in Google Earth, based on the famous character of the videogames created by Brøderbund (and then also the protagonist of an animated series), in which you have to find out in which part of the world is located and is about to hit the sophisticated thief Carmen Sandiego.

Some famous Google’s April’s fools

Also worthy of mention are some of the Google’s pranks that have gone down in history – even though the biggest of them all remains the Gmail ad, which arrived on April 1, 2004 just to fool users (who in fact immediately thought of the umpteenth fool!).

  1. Mentaplex. For April 1, 2000, Google patented the Mentaplex, a search that can be activated directly through thought: obviously it was an April’s fool, but the site still exists in its original form.
  2. Google Gulp. Much more than link juice: with the four smart drinks of the Google Gulp line it is possible to maximize browsing efficiency and feel smarter (and less thirsty). Announced on April 1, 2005, they are obviously one of the company’s many April’s fools.
  3. Google Romance. On April 1, 2006 instead Google looks into matching services, by launching Google Romance, a search engine that looks for sentimental partners. It really needs to be said that it is another April’s fool?
  4. Google TiSP. The joke of 2007 concerns the invention of a special kit to have an ultra-broadband connection and free at home directly… from the bathroom tablet! Again, the ad page is still active.

The abandoned Google’s easter eggs

The list is subject to many variations, because it happens as said that Google uses some temporary easter egg, on special occasions but for limited periods (for example on the occasion of holidays or special occasions), which are now discontinued, or decide to depress the functionalities when it considers them exceeded.

This is the case for example of the movie-related inside jokes: there was the snap of Avengers: Infinity War’s Thanos, activated by looking for Thanos or Infinity Glove, which made half of the results disappear in SERP, or various features related to the Harry Potter saga.

Among the games, instead, there was the opportunity to play a game at the Atari Breakout or Zerg Rush, which can be reached today by visiting the website https://elgoog.im/, a special project that shows Google “at the mirror” and that contains many easter eggs published in these 22 years.

 

Call to action